Bunions is the term for a bony lump that forms on the side of the big toe. They are often associated with deformity of the big toe and of the the smaller toes.
There are lots of options to ease the pain they cause but surgery is the only way to remove the bunion and correct the deformity.
Check if you have bunions
Symptoms of bunions include:
You may also have pain along the side or bottom of your feet. This is usually worse when wearing shoes and walking.
If you're not sure it's a bunion
Red, hot, swollen skin over the affected joint that comes and goes
Aching, swollen and stiff joints; usually worse in the morning
Pain, bruising and swelling after hurting your toe
How to ease bunion pain yourself
You cannot get rid of bunions or stop them getting worse yourself. But there are things you can do to relieve any pain:
wear wide shoes with a low heel
hold an ice pack or a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel to the bunion for up to 5 minutes at a time
try bunion pads, these are soft pads you put in shoes to stop them rubbing on a bunion – you can buy these from pharmacies
Use topical medications (oils and creams) - you can buy these from pharmacies
take paracetamol or ibuprofen
stretch your calf muscles
try to lose weight if you're overweight
Do not wear high heels or tight, pointy shoes
See a GP if:
- the pain has not improved after trying home treatments for a few weeks
- the pain is stopping you doing your normal activities
- your bunions are getting worse
- you also have diabetes – foot problems can be more serious if you have diabetes
Treatments from a GP or podiatrist
A GP or podiatrist can advise you about:
- things you can do to ease your symptoms, such as wearing wide shoes that do not squash your toes
- things you can buy or have made to reduce bunion pain, such as insoles, toe spacers and toe supports
A GP may refer you to a surgeon if your bunions are very painful or having a big effect on your life. Surgery is not done just to improve how your feet look.
Surgery for bunions
Surgery is the only way to remove a bunion and correct any deformity.
The most common operation for bunions is an osteotomy.
- Making a small cut in the skin over your big toe.
- Cutting or scraping away the bunion.
- Straightening your toe bone.
- Fixing your toe bone in place with metal screws or staples put under your skin. These are often left in permanently.
Surgery is usually done when you're asleep under general anaesthetic.
Most people go home the same day.
It can take a while to recover from surgery. You'll usually need to:
- stay off your feet as much as possible for at least 2 weeks
- avoid driving for 6 to 8 weeks
- stay off work for 6 to 12 weeks
- avoid sports for up to 6 months
After the operation:
- your toes might be weaker or stiffer than before
- your toes may not be perfectly straight
- your feet might still be slightly wide, so you'll probably have to keep wearing wide, comfy shoes
Surgery is usually successful but bunions can sometimes come back in a small number of patients.
Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE.